Fat Tuesday at the movies

Do the bon temps actually roulez in Hollywood? It’s more like they just kind of unspool.

* My good friend, Zayne Reeves, was kind enough to make sure I didn’t miss this rather extraordinary Esquire piece by Chris Jones on Roger Ebert’s current life. I’ve been spending my share of time around illness myself over the last several weeks and I can’t think of a more quietly, beautifully sane way of dealing with the strange cards life can deal us. Though I’m just one among very, very many he’s shared kind words with, I’ve always felt lucky for the very brief e-mail correspondences I’ve had with Roger over the years, Now I feel luckier.

* Reviews of the fourth Martin Scorsese film to star Leonardo DiCaprio, “Shutter Island,” are starting to trickle out. Glenn Kenny has a good one. “Good” both as in “positive” and also as in “worth your time reading.”

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* Doug Liman will be directing a film about the 1971 Attica prison riot/revolt/uprising, now best remembered by film lovers as the chant from “Dog Day Afternoon.” It’s a story he has a personal connection with through his late father, attorney Arthur Liman. Nevertheless, the director of “Go,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “The Bourne Identity” seems to be moving in a sort of John Frankenheimer-esque direction overall, too.

* Speaking of the man who yelled “Attica! Attica!,” Al Pacino has stepped into a part recently vacated by Robert De Niro. You just can’t seem to keep those two guys apart for very long.

* Nikki Finke is having a very fat Tuesday indeed. Earlier today she reported on Carl Icahn trying to snap up Lionsgate for himself and a deal between Warner Brothers and video kiosk powerhouse Redbox, not to mention the news that the Oscars this year may not be including the original artists in the Best Song category.

There’s still more; a 3-D movie based on Erector Sets. Sure, why not. Next up: “Slinky 3-D,” I’m sure. Now, if they really want to get a rise out of the family audience, they might consider adopting Mickey Spillane’s novel, The Erection Set. From the description I just linked to, it would really be something in three-dimensions.

* Writer-director Paul Feig is reteaming with his old “Freaks and Geeks” colleague, Judd Apatow, for a film starring and cowritten by Dave Medsker’s-ultra-fave, Kristen Wiig writes Borys Kit. Let’s hope it’s better than a typical SNL skit these days.

* I started with Roger Ebert and I’ll end with an item via his must-read Twitter-feed: the Film Preservation Blogathon being organized by my old Chicago-based cinephile blogging mate, Marilyn Ferdinand. If you care about movies, this is the place. It’s also a fundraiser (a first for a blogathon, as far as I can remember) so if the idea of losing a film — any film — forever bugs you as it should, considering donating. You can do worse than starting with this post by Ferdy’s partner in good works, the Self-Styled Siren aka Farran Nehme. And, courtesy of another cinephile colleague from the days when I had time to blog about old movies all the live-long day, Greg Ferrera, we conclude with….a commercial.

  

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A busy Monday in movieland…

…And not a whole lot of time to talk about it.

* Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” tested as the most memorable film commercial during last night’s hugely rated Superbowl and understandably so, it’s genuinely beautiful stuff. Past versions of the classic, however, have been somewhat hampered by the episodic — you might even say pre-Pythonesque — structure of Lewis Carrol/Charles Dodgson’s freewheeling children’s literary classic. (The first work of art to ever really blow my mind, I think.) The idea this time is to get around that problem by turning the film into something like a sequel to the original as concocted by writer Linda Woolverton. Storylines, or the lack thereof, have been Burton’s Achilles heel in the past, so this should be interesting.

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* The late Michael Jackson’s doctor has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

* We’ve had movies based on toys and board games, so why not a new movie based on this blog?

* In the seventies and eighties, horror films were often named after holidays. Now it’s ensemble romantic comedies, apparently.

* “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” meet “Mr. and Mrs. Jones.” (I guess “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Episode 1” didn’t do well in focus groups.)

* I’ve always loved Robert Wise’s great film of “The Andromeda Strain” and there are few movies I’ve detested more than Wolfgang Peterson’s “Outbreak.” (A virus is threatening all of humanity and I’m supposed to be distracted by an adorable monkey on loan from an overrated sitcom and helicopter chases???) I’m sure Steve Soderbergh’s “Contagion” will at least try to be closer to the Wise approach. Soderbergh may be uneven because he’s so unafraid to take huge chances, but when he pulls a movie together, few are better.

* Yet another item from Deadline|Hollywood’s ace, non-venomous reporter, reporter, Mike Fleming. Ami Canaan Mann, daughter of Michael Mann, is directing her first big feature (but not her first feature). It’s an intriguing sounding fact-inspired thriller about a series of unsolved Texas murders tied with the drug trade.

  

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15 Movies That Were Almost Turned Into TV Series

If you’re not an ABC Family aficionado like myself, then you may not be aware that the often-underrated network is preparing to launch a new series on July 7th: “10 Things I Hate About You,” based on the film of the same name. It’s hard to say whether this is a good idea or not, though the fact that Larry Miller has carried over his character from the film – patriarch Walter Stratford – is certainly a step in the right direction, but we can say one thing: there have been worse ideas. It’s been a television staple to transform motion pictures into weekly TV series, but not every attempt actually makes it to the airwaves. Here’s a list of 15 such swings and misses, many…okay, most of which deserved to fail.

1. “The African Queen” (“The African Queen,” 1962 & 1977) – It seems only appropriate to start this list out with an attempt at transforming a classic film into a TV series. The first time around was in 1962, when James Coburn took on the role of Cap’n Charlie Allnot, while Glynis Johns played the Hepburn role of missionary Rosie Sayer, but although it aired as an episode of NBC’s “The Dick Powell Theater,” it never made it any further. Fifteen years later, CBS took a stab at it, with the leads played by Warren Oates and Mariette Hartley. No dice. If the actual movie ever makes it to DVD (can you believe it’s still unavailable?), perhaps one or both of these pilots will be included as part of the bonus material.

2. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (“Holly Golightly,” 1969) – It sounds nuts, right? Granted, if there was anyone in the late ’60s who was the TV equivalent of Audrey Hepburn, it was probably Stefanie Powers, but Hepburn’s performance was so iconic that it’s hard to even wrap your head around the idea of anyone else playing the role of Ms. Golightly. As it turns out, the original author of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Truman Capote – didn’t like the movie, either, calling it “a mawkish valentine” to Hepburn, so he was even less ecstatic about the idea of a TV series. In an interview with Time Magazine, Capote predicted that the show would be even more “jerky” than the film and that he would not stand for the TV version “if they give me all the money in Christendom.” One doubts that his position on the matter had anything to do with the series not being picked up, but the end result no doubt pleased him, anyway.

3. “Diner” (“Diner,” 1983) – This one had a lot of potential, with the film’s writer/director, Barry Levinson, doing the same duties on the pilot. There was only one original cast member willing to return, however, but, hey, at least it was Paul Reiser (Modell). Plus, Mickey Rourke (Boogie) and Kevin Bacon (Fenwick) were traded out for Michael Madsen and James Spader, respectively, which ain’t half bad, really. In an interview with Venice Magazine, Levinson said, “We had a great cast, but CBS thought otherwise. They thought it wasn’t compatible with the current programming line-up they had.” The fools!

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